A Super way to start the NFL season
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LAS VEGAS — Finally, pro football is back on our Sunday calendars. But even as we keep looking ahead, it is hard not to be distracted by what happened Thursday night.
I have searched far and wide, but I still cannot find a single trend that led me to believe Kansas City would bury New England 42-27. Home teams were on a 3-0 run against the spread in that series, winning by more than 21 points a game. So much for that trend.
With that as a warning, here are some more trends we have come up with at VSiN – numbers for you to contemplate before you visit your favorite sports-book counter to bet Sunday’s games:
- New York Jets (plus-9) at Buffalo. Underdogs are on a 6-1 ATS run in this series. Hold your nose, grab the points, and take the Jets.
- Seattle at Green Bay (minus-3). Since 2003 the Packers are 6-0 straight-up and 5-1 ATS hosting Seattle. Aaron Rodgers laying a field goal seems reasonable.
- New York Giants (plus-4) at Dallas. The Giants are 9-4-1 ATS traveling to Big D since ’04, and they are a ’dog against a team that they swept a year ago. Why not back Big Blue one more time?
Still, I am not using the Jets, the Packers and the Giants in Week 1 of the Westgate SuperContest? Why? I don’t know. Maybe I’m stubborn.
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Return with me to Thursday night. That was as costly win for the Chiefs as it was impressive.
Losing safety Eric Berry to an Achilles injury means Kansas City loses a special leader who was voted the Chiefs’ MVP by his teammates last year. He recorded 77 tackles and four interceptions in 2016 – returning two for pick-6s. He did a tremendous job against Rob Gronkowski, who was targeted six times by Tom Brady but caught only two passes. The problem for Andy Reid is that even though the Chiefs have a very good defense, there is no replacement for Berry. Period.
Second-guessing of the play-calling is why we all love football. Taking that particular view, the Patriots’ Josh McDaniels did not have a good night. Tom Brady through the years has been lethal on fourth-and-inches with a quick count, going right behind his center. So I have no idea why he did not call his own number Thursday night. Instead, McDaniels and Brady turned to new running back Mike Gillislee, who twice went up the middle for no gain on fourth down. If Brady had tried to sneak it himself, he might have kept those two drives going. Don’t forget, one of them came after that debut fumble by Kansas City’s Kareem Hunt. If the Patriots had gone up 14-0, it might have been a very different game for Hunt and the Chiefs.
At least now the Patriots get extra time before they go to New Orleans. But it says here that the Big Easy is never easy. Not against Drew Brees in the dome.
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Week 2 of the college season features a four-pack of great games involving eight ranked teams. But I have one huge complaint. Why are they being played at virtually the same time Saturday night? With four different networks you would have thought one of them would have selected that 3:30 p.m. EDT time slot. When it comes to schedules, the NFL has it all over the NCAA. Somehow, though, we will find a way to keep track.
- No. 13 Auburn (plus-5½) at No. 3 Clemson. I was calling this game a year ago when Auburn came up short throwing into the end zone to try and win it as the final seconds ticked away. With ex-Baylor quarterback Jarrett Stidham and running back Kamryn Pettway back from suspension, Auburn is very dangerous against the defending champs.
- No. 15 Georgia (plus-5) at No. 24 Notre Dame. Don’t make too much of Jacob Eason missing the game because of his knee injury. Freshman Jake Fromm steps in. The last time I saw Jake, he was playing for the Warner Robins (Ga.) Little League team in Williamsport. The Bulldogs probably won’t ask him to defeat Notre Dame with the pass. They will rely on Nick Chubb and Sony Michel – in my opinion the best one-two combination of running backs in the country.
- No. 5 Oklahoma at No. 2 Ohio State (minus-7). The problem for the Sooners is two-fold. They have to deal with the raucous crowd at the ’Shoe in Columbus. And Baker Mayfield is still trying to find deep threats like he had last year.
- No. 14 Stanford (plus-6½) at No. 6 USC. Of the four big games this is the only conference affair, so it is doubly important. The Trojans offense is outstanding with Sam Darnold, but I have great respect for coach David Shaw in a big game. If the Trojans are to set sail for the final four, they are going to have to get past Stanford in this one. And yes, they could meet again in December for the Pac-12 title. Stanford has the tougher division, but it catches both Oregon and Washington at home, so this is probably the Cardinal’s toughest conference road game all year. These guys need to score some points to keep up with Darnold and the Trojans.
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Because of the fourth year of a TV blackout, there have not been as many witnesses as there should be. But the Dodgers’ collapse is very real, and it is becoming epic. Two weeks ago their lead over Arizona in the National League West was 21 games. Now it is 10.
Not even the great Clayton Kershaw could stop the bleeding Thursday night. He lasted only 3 2/3 innings against Colorado, but he is only the latest. Darvish, Hill, Wood, Maeda, Ryu. The pitching staff that I thought was ready for a deep run into October has suddenly collapsed.
Obviously there is time to regroup, but this is a very troubling time for those of us who backed the Dodgers after they picked up Yu Darvish. Don’t look now, but after this weekend series with the Rockies, they have to visit the Giants, who always give them trouble no matter how bad they are. Then next weekend it is a visit to Washington.
No doubt about it. Things could get worse before they get better for the Dodgers.